Dec. 15 marks the unofficial opening of the NBA trade season! Here’s an FAQ with some key facts fans need to know about the Portland Trail Blazers’ trade prospects.
When can the Blazers make a trade?
The NBA trade season unofficially begins on Dec. 15, because most players who signed new contracts in the offseason become eligible to be included in trades on that date. For the Blazers, Dec. 15 trade-eligible players include Festus Ezeli, Tim Quarterman, and Evan Turner. A complete list of trade-eligible NBA players can be found here. The ability to move new signees opens up trade possibilities and makes deals much more likely.
Allen Crabbe, Maurice Harkless, and Meyers Leonard, however, are all in a second group of players who become trade eligible on Jan. 15. Those players signed contracts with larger raises and the Blazers are over the salary cap – together those circumstances trigger a later trade-eligible date. A full list of Jan. 15 players can be found here, and full details on the specifics of the contracts can be found here.
Also, CJ McCollum cannot be traded until Jan. 27.
Because the Blazers can’t trade their four newly-signed role players on long, moderate-to-high value contracts for another month, it would seem unlikely that any meaningful deals will be completed until Jan. 15.
What’s the deal with Allen Crabbe’s trade kicker and veto ability?
Crabbe attempted to sign with the Brooklyn Nets this summer as a restricted free agent, but the Blazers used a right of first refusal to match the Nets’ offer and retain Crabbe. Consequently, Crabbe can veto any trade that he’s involved in until next summer. This provision balances out the loss of movement autonomy for Crabbe and other players in his situation.
Additionally, Crabbe cannot be traded to the Nets under any circumstances until July, 2017. This rule prevents teams from colluding to circumvent sign-and-trade restrictions. That said, there are signs that Crabbe would be willing to forego his trade veto if he ends up with a team that intends to use him as a starter.
Crabbe’s contract also includes a maximum allowable 15 percent trade bonus (aka: trade “kicker”) that dictates Crabbe will be paid a hefty bonus if traded. To further complicate matters, if the Blazers do trade Crabbe, the bonus will not count as salary they are “sending out” but it will count as salary that’s “coming in” for his new team, making it more difficult than usual to align the trade pieces. For this reason, a Crabbe trade will most likely be to a team that is currently under the cap, or a team under the cap will be included as a third partner to facilitate the deal.
Why is CJ McCollum’s contract considered a poison pill?
McCollum signed a 4-year, $106 million contract extension last summer that kicks in next season. This year he’s still on his rookie-scale contract making only $3.22 million. The disparity between his current contract and the extension turns his deal into a "poison pill" for the rest of this season, making McCollum nearly untradeable (Details here). If the Blazers did wish to trade him, they would only be allowed to take on $3.2 million in salary (McCollum's contract this season), but their trade partner would need to have in excess of $21 million in cap space (McCollum's average salary over the next five seasons). That trade would be impossible for a team at or near the salary cap line - only teams with significant cap space AND a marquee player on a rookie contract would be feasible trade partners.
Who might actually be traded?
With the nitty gritty details out of the way let’s consider which Blazers might actually be traded this season in the fabled consolidation deal:
Unlikely to be traded under any circumstances
Evan Turner - Turner literally laughed his way to the bank when he heard Olshey’s offer this summer, and although he has played well recently, his deal is still likely inflated beyond his value. That makes him an unlikely trade chip.
CJ McCollum – the poison pill element of his contract would necessitate cooperation from a team like Denver or Philadelphia. In addition to losing McCollum, the Blazers would probably have to give up a draft pick in exchange for Denver/Philly facilitating – essentially they’d be paying for the “privilege” of trading CJ. Short a massive blockbuster, Neil Olshey will likely find this unpalatable.
Portland is pot-committed so only if they are needed for a blockbuster
Meyers Leonard – Similarly to Turner, Leonard has yet to play up to his contract value and has even fallen out of the rotation occasionally this season. He might be included as a throw-in to make salaries match, but with a 4-year, $41 million deal he’s past the point of being traded as a prospect so Olshey likely sees him as most valuable on Portland’s bench.
Noah Vonleh – Vonleh is still on a tradeable rookie scale deal, but continues to have trouble even getting into the rotation. Opposing teams would likely see him as a throw-in, whereas Olshey would likely view him as a player with upside. The talent evaluation disparity will make a deal difficult.
Potential throw-in to match salaries
Ed Davis – Davis is on a good deal, but only has one year remaining after this season and will then become an unrestricted free agent. That limits his utility to most non-contending teams in a trade and will likely reduce his value to “throw-in.”
Semi-appealing to opposing teams
Al-Farouq Aminu – He has a very tradeable deal and is on a cheap contract for two seasons after this year. His limited upside won’t appeal to many teams, but he might be part of a solid package to bring in a frontcourt upgrade.
Mason Plumlee – Plumlee is due for a big raise this summer. A trade partner can retain him via restricted free agency, but in a world where Timofey Mozgov gets $64 million, teams might be hesitant to acquire a defensively limited player who is due an undetermined raise. This makes Plumlee unlikely to headline any consolidation trades.
Potential Consolidation Trade Headliners
Allen Crabbe – Crabbe’s upside and locked-in long-term deal make him more appealing than players on rookie deals (Plumlee) or players with no potential upside (Turner) for many teams around the league. Blazer’s Edge has already outlined a potential trade to the 76ers, and the Sacramento Kings also showed interest in Crabbe this summer.
Maurice Harkless – Harkless is, arguably, the only Blazers role player currently outplaying his contract, set at 4-years and $40 million. At 23 he also has upside that would be very appealing to a team hoping to solidify a spot in its rotation for several years to come. Many Blazers fans would likely balk at this idea, but given the talent infusion the team needs, Olshey should at least consider a deal centering around Harkless if it offers a clear upgrade at a starting position.
Fans can start taking rumors of consolidation trades seriously around Jan. 15 when several Blazers become eligible to be traded. Aminu, Plumlee, Crabbe, and Harkless are the players most likely to be involved in as central pieces in any trades, while Davis may be included as a throw-in. McCollum and Turner are unlikely to go anywhere.
—Eric Griffith | GoBlazers87@gmail.com | @DeeringTornado
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